Starry skies, lava flow, & solitude: the big island of Hawaii

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The big island of Hawaii is the state’s youngest island, and also its largest (duh). And like any (very) young thing, it continues to grow, edges creeping out in a live, molten lava flow that causes the island to gain ground a little bit each year. It is certainly not the state’s most well-known island- not like Maui, Oahu, or Kaui- and it does not conjure up the images we know from vintage film posters, postcards, and pop culture. The big island is vast, mountainous, and authentic, and it’s worth visiting for anyone who likes to explore. Continue reading

Resolutions for 2017

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1. Dream More.

In 2017, I want to dwell in all the possibilities of what could be. Backpacking around New Zealand, micro-financing small businesses for women in third-world countries, learning to surf, heck, buying a really nice car. My dreams may go poof and disappear, or they may materialize in front of me. Regardless, I’m going there—and I’m not allowing “what if’s” or “but’s” to stand in my way. Continue reading

With plenty or little: Christmas across the continents

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lap-top coconut: lunch in Mozambique

It’s December, and here in LA, we are in full swing of the season- holiday music jingles across the airwaves, I’m offered tiny mugs of cider and cookies at every turn (church, the shopping mall, Whole Foods), red, green and tinsel everything, and I’m feeling cozy, oddly romantic (I’m single), emotional (abnormal for me), and like I need to shop. Every. single. day. I’m wearing sparkly earrings, looking forward to the next Christmas party (one about every 48 hours), and planning a batch of spicy-sweet popcorn brittle, and browsing recipes for paleo eggnog. I’m watching Christmas movies, buying gifts for family (and let’s be real, me), and dreading the post-holiday abyss that is January while sipping my Starbucks peppermint mocha. It feels wonderfully chaotic, and also terribly and yet appealingly commercial. I’m overwhelmed, joy-filled, and stuffed. Explanation? It’s my first Christmas season in America in half a decade.
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Caramelized + whipped white sweet potatoes with maple syrup & butter

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‘Tis the season for all things starchy, sweet and dripping in butter, but I wanted to at least keep my Christmas-y cooking and baking binge in line with clean eating. Thankfully, that’s not too difficult with a little bit of creativity with winter tubers, natural sweeteners like coconut sugar and maple syrup, and a healthy belief that butter is in fact, good for you (I trust all things Dr. Josh Axe). Continue reading

Feed your friends: 4 cultures of hospitality, grace & good eats

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‘Tis the season to feed and to be fed. Christmas and the surrounding holidays have got me thinking a lot about why we celebrate special occasions by feeding each other- our family, our friends, those we love, and maybe even those we don’t know particularly well. In the U.S. we don’t normally spend too much time in the kitchen, preparing, cooking, and plating labor-intensive dishes- but come November and December, we’re roasting 20 lb. turkeys, sugaring hundreds of tiny cookies, melting chocolate for ganache truffles, peeling apples for pie, and kneading all sorts of crusts and breads—all for the sake of others (okay, maybe we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor a little).

It’s an exceptional time of the year to be hospitable. But in other parts of the world, and in other cultures, hospitality is a year-round tradition, expectation, and joy. Since I’ve had the awesome opportunity to do a good bit of traveling to different countries, I’ve had the equally awesome opportunity to eat my way around the world, in the kitchens (and living room floors, and straw huts) of some of the most talented and generous cooks I’ve ever known. They’re not professionals, but their capacity to wow on an often limited budget is just as impressive as any restaurant chef—if not more. Here, a few of my favorite experiences… Continue reading

Learn to dream again

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If you were a healthy, fairly well-adjusted child, you probably had lots of dreams for the future. You might have dreamed of being a professional athlete, or an actress, or a movie producer. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a mansion, an indoor swimming pool and a crew of servants (scary, I know). As you got a little older, your dreams may have evolved, and you may have had callings or goals more sophisticated or specific; maybe you wanted to be an entrepreneur, or a photojournalist, or move to a foreign country. By the time I was 12 or 13, I dreamed of being a writer.

But somewhere along the way, for many of us, disappointment, discouragement and distraction happen (by the way,”dis-” means “reversing force”). We lose sight of our dreams, and maybe we even lose the ability to dream. By the time I was 18 or 19, I decided writing was unrealistic and impractical, and I had college, boys and a number of other things on my mind. I didn’t have time to dream. Continue reading

Warm winter squash + olive-oil fried chickpeas

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I’m on a squash kick lately. It’s the season for pumpkin, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and acorn squash, and since moving back to California, I’m happy to see that we have plenty in the produce aisle, despite a Mediterranean climate and July temperatures in November. I’m throwing it into curries, pureeing it into soups and dreaming of ways to make squash-style sweets. But my favorite way to prepare winter gourds is easy: throw them cubed into a hot pan with olive oil and onions. The result is rich, sweet and so much more than the sum of its parts. Continue reading

A perfect 24 hours on Catalina Island

You may have never heard of Catalina Island before, but at one time this 22-mile long island off the coast of LA was a major destination for celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and later on, Marilyn Monroe (think the Great Gatsby, West Coast style). The first and only time I’ve seen any national recognition of this Southern California getaway was on a Growing Pains episode in the 90’s, that was supposed to take place in Southern Europe. There it was- right behind Kirk Cameron, the ubiquitous sea foam- green railing of the waterside walkway and the arched facade of the famous Casino built in the 20’s- it wasn’t Malaga or Nice I was seeing, it was Southern California. And that’s when I realized I had always taken for granted this coastal gem, only a (sometimes rocky) forty-five minute boat ride from Long Beach.

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Coffee with almond-coconut cream & cardamom

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When I lived overseas, I noticed that cafés served tiny cups of coffee that would barely qualify as kid-size in the U.S. At first, it was a bit infuriating- where’s my half-gallon latte? But then I realized that, duh, just like super-size fries and giant plates of pasta at Cheesecake Factory, we overestimate portion size in America. So I became accustomed to having a tiny, strongly flavored drink in the afternoon, around 3 or 4 p.m. Continue reading

Chipotle-spiced sweet potato soup (vegan)

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Since I stick to a gluten-free and mostly paleo diet, sweet potatoes are my sweet, starchy saving grace in the midst of crisp green veggies and meat. Technically, I could eat them all year round, but something feels wrong about sinking my teeth into a hot, just-barely caramelized fire-orange potato mid-summer (the one exception being sweet potato fries, which are always a good idea). So when the skies cloud over and temperatures dip just a little bit, I rejoice because it’s that time again- time to haul a big, heavy bag home of these tubers that take on spice, butter and maple syrup so well, but are also super-duper delicious all on their own.

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